Sunday, August 25, 2019

10th Sunday After Trinity

Sermon Series: Live a Life Worthy of a Child of God

Sermon Theme: Increase Your Christian Sensitivity by...

Sermon Text: Ephesians 4:17 - 5:2

Trinity 10 Ephesians 4:17 - 5:2 8/25/19

We continue our series on Living a Life Worthy of a Child of God based on the last three chapters of Ephesians.  Today we turn to Ephesians 4:17 - 5:2.  We will focus on the first paragraph today and then take a closer look at the rest next Sunday.  

“17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Dear Fellow Redeemed, 

God has created our bodies with the ability to adjust to different environments.  You know how when you go swimming in the lake, when you first wade into the water it feels cold and you don’t even want to think of going in much above your knees; but then if you take the plunge, you rather quickly get used to the water temperature and it actually feels comfortable.  If we had a 5° day right now it would feel very cold, but after a long, cold winter a 5° day feels pretty nice.  

Unfortunately, we have the same ability to adjust spiritually to changing surroundings and get used to them.  You’ve all heard of the old experiment with frogs, if you put a frog in hot water it will jump out, but if you put it in cold water and then slowly heat the water up, the frog will not feel alarmed and will stay until it eventually is cooked to death.  So it is with us, radical change alarms us, and puts us on guard. However, when change takes place gradually we get used to it and it doesn’t seem so alarming.  

Just look at how TV shows have changed over the past 50 years.  Fifty years ago TV networks wouldn't even show married couples in bed together, today they show explicit sexual scenes and every kind of sin imaginable. 50 years ago any parent would have jumped up and shut off the TV at the first hint of foul language or inappropriate behavior between men and women. Today, we accept far worse as if it is normal. It’s because these changes have been gradual, so it doesn’t seem as shocking.  Nothing today is less sinful than it was 50 years ago. So why the change in attitude?  The problem is that our Christian sensitivity is being dulled.  The world has been gradually turning up the heat on us and like foolish frogs we just seem to get comfortable with it. Why don’t we flee for our lives? How long until we are boiled alive?  

Notice how God describes the Gentiles here in our text, that is the unbelievers all around us.  He says, “In the futility of their minds.  They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.”  We need to understand that sin is like the ultimate drug. Sin seems to satisfy the cravings of our sinful Old Adam, but it never does. It always leads to a lust for more, and like most drugs, the “little sins” lead to greater, more horrible sins and addiction.  That’s why God warns us here, “You must no longer walk as the Gentiles do.”  Don’t go back to that way of life.  

Our Old Testament Reading today (Zechariah 3:1-5) describes very vividly what Jesus has done for us.  Like Joshua the High Priest, we were clothed in filthy garments.  The Hebrew is much more graphic, it literally says his garments were covered with excrement.  That is what your sins are like to God: excrement soaked clothes, filthy, disgusting, stinking clothes.  Then the Angel of the Lord gave the command to take off his filthy clothes. Then He says, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.” Zec. 3:4 

That is a very graphic picture of what Jesus has done for you.  What a relief to have the filthiness of our sins taken away and we are washed clean and then clothed with the pure righteousness of Christ.  Now, can you imagine taking those filthy clothes off and taking a shower and getting all clean and then putting those same filthy clothes back on again? Never in a million years!  So let’s not go back to the ways of the world or even become used to the worldly ways.  

Instead of letting ourselves get used to the sin around us and becoming callous to it like the world is, we need to 

Increase our Christian Sensitivity.

Paul gives us two steps to Increase our Christian Sensitivity rather than become callous to sin.  He tells us to 1. Put off the Old Self and    2. Put on the New Self!

-I- 

First of all Paul says that you have been taught by Christ “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires.”  You all know how we still have our “Old self” or the “Old Adam” as it is also called.  Our sinful human nature.  You can never reform your old self.  You can’t teach it to be better. It is always corrupt with deceitful desires.  You can’t ever change it.  The only thing we can do is “put off your old self” or your old man.  Paul puts it even stronger in Colossians 3:5 “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”  We need to crucify the old nature with Christ. 

How do you do that?  Through Repentance!  But notice that verse from Colossians mentions specific sins, “fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”  Putting to death the flesh doesn’t happen through a general confession of sin like we do here in church, confessing that we are sinners who have sinned against God.  We put to death those desires by recognizing specific sins that we are drawn to, or that we have given in to and remembering what God’s law says about them; that those who practice these things “will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Instead God says, “Because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them.”  So realize that your old man is the enemy.  It is trying to lead you into the very things that can destroy you eternally. 

We seem to think that we can flirt with the world by watching and being entertained by the world as they flaunt all their sinful pleasures on TV.  When we watch things like that, it only strengthens the old man in us.  Instead of putting off the old self, that encourages our sinful nature.  And that gives more and more opportunity for Satan to take control of your heart and life.  Don’t let the callousness of the world rub off on you.  “That is not the way you learned Christ!” Paul says.  

Instead, we need to recognize what is happening to us and put off the old self with its corrupt and evil desires.  Repent of those sins and get rid of them from your life, so you don’t walk like the Gentiles all around you.  

-II-

The Next step, Paul says, is “to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”  That is an amazing, wonderful statement.  This shows the result of the pure Gospel.  He doesn’t say you have to become a new man.  He doesn’t say you have to find the good deep within you and bring that out. That we could never do because there is no good within us.  No! He says to “put on the new self,” or the new man, which was “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”  

That is what God has done for us.  When the Holy Spirit brought us to faith in Christ and has taken away all our sins and washed us clean in the blood of Christ, He created this new man or new self within us.  He created this new man to be like “God in true righteousness and holiness.”  That new man was given to us when we were baptized.  That is why Jesus says we were born again.  We became a new creation.  

Now we are children of God who have been cleansed and given a whole new person.  Paul simply says to to put on this new self that we have been given.  That is do everything that will bring that new man within us to the forefront.  That new man doesn’t need to be strengthened as such, it is already perfect. We just need to get the old sinful nature out of the way and let that new man take control of our life.  

It is the law that crushes and crucifies the old man, and it is the Gospel that puts on the new man.  Just think about the power of the Gospel.  The Gospel tells us how Jesus suffered greatly at the hands of men. We might get angry at the injustice and cruelty shown to Him, except the gospel reveals that Jesus suffered because of our sins.  Jesus suffered because of my greed and lust and envy.  Doesn't that make you hate your sinful self and want to get rid of it?  

More than that, the Gospel reveals how Jesus willingly suffered those things because He loves you and that is the only way that He could save you from those sins and the punishment that they deserved.  That is how Jesus has taken off those filthy garments of sin and placed on you the rich robes of His righteousness.  Cleansed from that, yes saved from that, are we going to return to it?  Are we going to be entertained by the very things that caused Jesus’ suffering?  God forbid!

Paul says “to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,” When you read the gospel of Jesus love and grace, when you think about it, meditate on it every day, then your mind will be renewed so that you think differently about those sins and according to the new man you desire only what is good and pleasing to the Lord.  

In that way we will Increase our Christian Sensitivity toward sin and we will truly delight to Live a Life Worthy of a Child of God.  As Jesus said to His disciples, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” John 13:17 

Amen.

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